United States District Court, E.D. Kentucky, Central Division, Lexington
OPINION & ORDER
E. WIER UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Charles Hutsell is an inmate at FCI - McKean in Lewis Run,
Pennsylvania. Proceeding without an attorney, Hutsell filed a
civil rights complaint against an Assistant United States
Attorney, an agent with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco,
Firearms and Explosives, and a Kentucky State Police
detective. DE #1 (Complaint). The Court granted Hutsell's
motion for leave to proceed in forma pauperis,
see DE #7, and now screens his Complaint pursuant to
28 U.S.C. §§ 1915A and 1915(e)(2). Because relevant
Supreme Court precedent bars Hutsell's claims, the Court
dismisses the Complaint in its entirety.
pleaded guilty in 2010 to two counts of cocaine base
distribution (one count involving five or more grams), in
violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1). See United
States v. Hutsell, No. 5:10-cr-078-JMH-20 (E.D. Ky.
2010) at DE #332 (Rearraignment Minutes). Then-presiding
Judge Forester sentenced Hutsell to 144 months in prison, all
per the plea agreement. See Id. at DE #459
(Judgment); see also Id. at DE #333 (Plea
Agreement). The case was later reassigned to Judge Hood,
id. at DE #675, who (in 2015) partially granted
Hutsell's 28 U.S.C. § 2255 motion and reduced
Hutsell's sentence of incarceration to 120 months based
on intervening Fair Sentencing Act changes. See Id.
at DE #745 (Order granting partial § 2255 relief);
id. at DE #746 (Amended Judgment). Judge Hood denied
§ 2255 relief on all other asserted grounds.
Id. at DE #762 (Order).
claims that AUSA Hawkins, ATF Agent Putman, and KSP Detective
Kirkland committed “fraud on the court” and
“engaged in a pattern of fraudulent, misleading
discovery and unconstitutional and illegal conduct by
‘manufacturing evidence' and ‘lying'
under oath in federal court, resulting in their arrest of
Plaintiff and obtaining judgment in their favor in the
district court.” DE #1 at 3. Hutsell further claims
that Defendants improperly arrested him without a warrant.
See Id. at 3-4. Hutsell seeks both damages and a
“preliminary and permanent injunction ordering
[Defendants] to cease judgment under [criminal] Case Number
#10-78.” Id. at 5. Functionally, Hutsell
attempts to collaterally attack the validity of his criminal
judgment via § 1983 and seeks to obtain monetary damages
in the process.
in forma pauperis statute provides that a court
“shall dismiss the case at any time if the court
determines that . . . the action . . . fails to state a claim
on which relief may be granted[.]” 28 U.S.C. §
1915(e)(2); accord § 1915A(b)(1). Hutsell's
Complaint fails to state a cognizable claim for relief.
Section 1983 is not an appropriate vehicle to challenge a
conviction or sentence. Preiser v. Rodriguez, 93
S.Ct. 1827, 1841 (1973) (holding that, if a prisoner is
“challenging the very fact or duration of his physical
imprisonment, and the relief he seeks is a determination that
he is entitled to immediate release or a speedier release
from that imprisonment, his sole federal remedy is a writ of
habeas corpus”). And, “to recover damages for
allegedly unconstitutional conviction or imprisonment, or for
other harm caused by actions whose unlawfulness would render
a conviction or sentence invalid, a § 1983
plaintiff” must first demonstrate that “the
conviction or sentence has been reversed on direct appeal,
expunged by executive order, declared invalid by a state
tribunal authorized to make such determination, or called
into question by a federal court's issuance of a writ of
habeas corpus.” Heck v. Humphrey, 114 S.Ct.
2364, 2372 (1994); see also Robinson v. Jones, 142
F.3d 905, 907 (6th Cir. 1998) (clarifying that Heck
applies to Bivens actions). The Heck Court
expressed continuing reluctance “to expand
opportunities for collateral attack, ” id. at
2371, and recognized that “the hoary principle that
civil tort actions are not appropriate vehicles for
challenging the validity of outstanding criminal judgments
applies to § 1983 damages actions that necessarily
require the plaintiff to prove the unlawfulness of his
conviction or confinement, ” id. at 2372. In
sum: “A [§ 1983] claim challenging confinement
must be dismissed regardless of whether the plaintiff seeks
injunctive or monetary relief[, ]” absent prior
invalidation of the underlying criminal judgment. Adams
v. Morris, 90 Fed.Appx. 856, 858 (6th Cir. 2004) (citing
Heck, 114 S.Ct. at 2373-74, and Preiser, 93
S.Ct. at 1836-37).
allegations-that Defendants manufactured evidence, lied under
oath, and arrested him without a warrant, all leading to his
convictions-would necessarily call into question the validity
of his criminal judgment, if substantiated. Yet, Plaintiff
has not shown (and the Court has not independently located
any information indicating) that Hutsell's convictions or
sentence have been overturned or invalidated. Indeed, Judge
Hood limited relief to a resentencing, otherwise fully
denying Hutsell's § 2255 motion. Thus, neither may
Hutsell collaterally challenge the constitutionality of his
criminal convictions or sentence, nor (given Heck)
may he pursue related monetary damages, via § 1983.
cannot use § 1983 to challenge the validity of his
criminal judgment, and he has not shown its prior
invalidation as required to seek monetary damages per
Heck. Consequently, the Complaint fails to state a
claim on which the Court can grant relief at this time.
See Hunt v. Michigan, 482 Fed.Appx. 20, 22 (6th Cir.
2012) (affirming dismissal of a Heck-barred
complaint for failure to state a claim); accord Morris v.
Cason, 102 Fed.Appx. 902, 903 (6th Cir. 2004).
the Court DISMISSES the Complaint (DE #1),
without prejudice. A corresponding Judgment follows.
 Hutsell entered a binding plea to
Counts 5 and 6 of the Third Superseding Indictment (DE #308);
Count 5 carried a maximum imprisonment term of 30 years, and
Count 6 carried a minimum of ten years. Hutsell agreed to 144
months, given the then-applicable mandatory 240-month minimum
on the Count 1 charge against Hutsell. Considering the Fair
Sentencing Act's changes, however, the United States
advocated for a reduction to 120 months “in order to
give Hutsell the benefit of no longer being subject to a
statutory minimum sentence of 240 months ...